It’s a phenomenon, it’s a landmark album, it’s lasted over 1500 weeks in the charts…and counting. Dark Side Of The Moon (DSOTM) is one of the most well known albums in existence. Which is why I’m not going to talk about it – they are…
Nick Mason: “The concept was originally about the pressures of modern life – travel, money and so on. But then Roger turned it into a meditation on insanity.”
Roger Waters: “When the record was finished I took a reel-to-reel copy home with me and I remember playing it for my wife then, and I remember her bursting into tears when it was finished. And I thought, ‘This has obviously struck a chord somewhere,’ and I was kinda pleased by that.”
Rick Wright: “We approached that album, I would say, in exactly the same way as any other album we’ve done. Except that this album was a concept album. It was about madness, it was about one’s fear, it was about the business – whereas none of the other albums had been like that.”
David Gilmour: “[After DSOTM] all your childhood dreams of pop-star success…suddenly you’ve got them all and it’s done and so you’re sort of left wondering, well… ‘What do I do now?’.”
Perusing the familial background of DSOTM on record is almost like swotting for a BA in world recording history as you are taken from the heady heights of SACD, to CD (standard and gold) and vinyl (standard and audiophile) and the flawed quadraphonic experiments of yore. One almost expects to find the DSOTM, Edison Gold Cylinder edition with added sequins to rear its magnificent head.
Before recommending particular editions, however, it is well to first list those formats to avoid – such as the standard CD edition. This was transferred, not from the master tape, but from a standard 15ips Dolby copy.
The usual retort when discussing most album re-issues is to fall back on the original vinyl edition. This album has been repressed so many times, in vinyl, that the best version is the original UK EMI/Harvest vinyl pressing, the one with the solid blue pyramid on label and an early stamper code. However, this will cost you around £350 from specialist dealers. Later repressings don’t cut the mustard. Mobile Fidelity’s famed Japanese-pressed half-speed LP did have the benefit of being very quiet. However, its EQ remaster was a little too hot in the upper extremes. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the gold edition CD from the same company which, being CD, is emphasised even more.
The best digital version of DSTOM that I’ve heard is the SACD release from EMI. Whether you listen to the SACD stereo version or the surround version. The best CD version I’ve heard is the CD layer on the self same disk. There has been talk that this layer has suffered a little from compression but, compared to the other CD versions out there, that CD layer on the SACD tops the lot.
As for vinyl? The 30th anniversary vinyl edition is the best I have heard – it even compares well to the original pressing. This edition was mastered, at AcousTech, in the USA by Doug Sax, overseen by James Gutherie (both experienced Floyd men) with assistance from Alan Parsons – the album’s original engineer. This quashes the criticism, which has raged on the Internet, that declared that Parsons had been snubbed on this project. Doug Sax commented that, for the vinyl remaster, “…we got early LP test pressings and they were mandatory since the master tape is Dolby and there are no (original) tones. By hunting and pecking we derived that the master tape has a NAB high end and an IEC low end.”
NAB is the American standard for tape equalization and IEC, also called CCIR, is the standard for Europe and most of the world. Some machines have switchable EQ. Very few machines allow switchable top-end and bottom-end EQ. Doug’s custom machine had this capability which improved the final vinyl sound reproduction.
“After playing the tape correctly,” continued Sax, “we then EQd the album to sound more open and punchy than the original release ever did.”
So, now you have no excuse to, once more, turn off the lights, lie on the floor and, like, freak out…man.
There’s no dark side of Paul Rigby’s pen…because it glows.